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Lesssons from a Serial Entrepreneur

A good entrepreneur is not one who always gets it right, but she is one who knows how to make all the mistakes as quickly as possible. If possible, she acquires others’ experiences by listening and making sure that she does not make the mistake. Hence, the way to know that is to know the dark side of entrepreneurship.

Let me tell you a story about a group of entrepreneurs who recently called me for advice. They explained that they recently had lost their company to what they described as a con man. Being inexperienced entrepreneurs they had been taught that they should raise money before they had bootstrapped their business in order to get customers, they were introduced to a person who they were told could raise funding for them.

He explained that that he would take stock for the connections he made for them as they had little funds to pay his fee. Mind you not shares for investments made through these introductions but just for introductions he made. Eventually, the company collapsed because of three reasons

1) They were taught in their entrepreneur class to raise money and not risk their own

2) They spent all of their time going to meetings with the people that they were introduced to by this con man

3)They had no experience in negotiating business contracts

I explained to them that they were asking for my advice after they made their mistakes. They said they thought they knew how to start their business by raising capital from others for they all had taken entrepreneur classes in college. Using my advice they have started another company and are bootstrapping it themselves. This lesson I teach to every entrepreneur I meet.

Not many entrepreneurs can come back like how they did. Because Midwesterners are intolerant of failure, my bet is that 90% of them would have given up after such a setback. Many entrepreneurs I know become jaded and bitter about life.

Perhaps, that is the part which I do not empathize with them. If you are one who believes that there is a silver lining to every cloud, you should have faith that you learn from your mistakes and move on to build a bigger enterprise. If you want an inspiration, think about Steve Jobs being booted out from Apple at the age of 30. He was fired by the person who he hired. Look at how he used this lesson to build his next venture and demonstrate how a real entrepreneur never quits.

Our media is filled with success stories and seldom writes about failed companies. For that reason many entrepreneurs believe that their lives are over because of this set back and never achieve success.

Vanity is definitely the devil’s favorite sin. As a matter of fact, if you dig into the statistics, you will come to a realization that most young entrepreneurs will fail on their first startups.

Many entrepreneurs will begin with idealism and fervor and work on passion to keep their startup going. Being young and brash, they usually let both successes and failures overwhelm them.

I believe that for many first time entrepreneurs their inexperience in dealing with the real world make them naive about dealing with people.

To defend yourself against the dark side, you need to ensure that you do not possess fatal character flaws. Otherwise, these con-men will turn it as an advantage against you.

Believe it or not, most entrepreneurs desire control. Entrepreneurs are people who want to make a difference in other people’s lives. The motivation to create something new and innovative or redefine how people conceive the traditional markets bring them not only creativity but also the unfortunate trait of possibly being a control freak.

Their obsession with control affects their ability to move or delegate demonstrates how badly at times they get along with other people.

Most entrepreneurs are people who want to create their own environment. They do not want to be at the mercy of others, which makes them very intolerant of incompetency.

The desire for control leads them to show strong distrust in people who work for them. If they are too paranoid, they become easy preys for investors, partners and clients who adapt it to manipulate them to gain control.

Yet, this trait is a double edged sword. It can make them more alert to the people in the surrounding who might attempt to con them. Don’t you see it all around you: why bosses in small companies tend to be misers compare to those in big companies? They are afraid that when they spend on their employees, they will be taken advantage of. So, being trapped in the state of distrust, their first defense is to ensure that they exploit a lot more from employees.

Many entrepreneurs feel that they are living on the edge and they feel that their life is under constant tension. So, they need to become a character in Homer’s Iliad.

Every entrepreneur I know has an ego and usually it is a strong one. If you don’t have an ego, it’s hard to believe that you are an entrepreneur. That’s the unfortunate reality because of the many characteristics which an entrepreneur possesses


Posted by jerry mitchell